Linfield players are faced with a huge test of character every week but manager David Jeffrey has a glint in his eye which tells you his troops are up to the job.
Last weekend’s resounding 4-0 win at table-toppers Crusaders was a message to the rest of the league that anyone planning on lifting the Gibson Cup has a real fight on their hands.
The Blues have had their setbacks this season but their hunger and desire could not be questioned after the convincing performance at Seaview.
Football is a team game and managers normally don’t like to single out individuals for special praise but Jeffrey could have talked for hours about the qualities of his key men.
From the creativity and intelligent distribution of Jamie Mulgrew, to the clinical finishing of Paul Munster and no-nonsense defending of Steven Douglas and Kris Lindsay, they are all vital components of a ruthlessly, slick machine.
And yet the win over Crusaders will “count for nothing” if the Blues lose to their old enemy, Glentoran, at Windsor Park tomorrow.
The manager’s “one game at a time” philosophy will not be changing. You get the same number of points for beating Glentoran as any other side.
“We are getting a run of consistency but there is absolutely no chance of us getting carried away,” said Jeffrey. “The magnificent win over Crusaders will be forgotten if we get beaten by Glentoran.
“I’m always reluctant to single out individuals but I will do it when I feel it is warranted. Jamie (Mulgrew) has been fantastic. His performance at the Oval was superb and we purposely left him out against Derry City because we didn’t want to ask too much of him.
“But he came back in again against Distillery and Crusaders. He is a great lad, just a fantastic boy who comes from a super fam
ily. He’s such a good footballer and real driving force of the team.
“Kris (Lindsay) was also awesome against Crusaders. If he can avoid tripping over a plastic bag we will be alright! I’ve told the players that if anyone puts a bag in his way we will fine him!
“He is a very strong, aggressive player but his injuries have held him back.
“The most pleasing thing about the win over Crusaders was there was a tackle at the end of the game and Kris and Steven Douglas as well as Damien Curran and Michael Gault were not going to shy away from a challenge when a clean sheet was on the line.
“They were not giving up — the sign of top players. I have to say I would be proud of my boys leaping over the top in the Somme, the Germans would run like blazes!”
Another good news story for Linfield is the return to fitness of Curtis Allen, a player dubbed ‘the new Peter Thompson’. Injury has prevented Allen from hurting defences but that is all about to change.
“Paul Munster’s goals were magnificent — he’s a natural finisher,” added Jeffrey. “But I brought on Curtis against Crusaders to remind the players that there has to be a healthy level of competition.”
Linfield midfielder Michael Gault, who recently clocked up his 300th appearance for the Blues, is suspended for the Big Two showdown.